Almost any discussion about the direction of the NFL will eventually veer into topics like inflated offensive stats, poor tackling, defenders stuck with a Catch-22 of hitting too low or too high, etc. The league has definitively swung in the direction of favoring offenses. Although defensive players and coaches may complain periodically, the overall attitude is "you just have to adjust," which is probably wise. Between concussion lawsuits and the fact that fans dig scoring, Brandon Merriweather and his ilk are a dying breed.
But there is a way to restore at least some balance without compromising the steps the league has taken to protect
offensive players. One of two simple tweaks to the enforcement of penalties could give defenses a fighting chance:
- Get rid of the automatic first down for post-snap defensive penalties other than personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct. Defensive Holding on 3rd and 10 would simply result in 3rd and 5. Pass Interference would still be a spot foul, but if the spot of the foul was short of the line to gain, the down would be replayed with the yardage marked off. In goal-to-go situations, the officials would still award half the distance, but the down would be replayed. I don't see much of a downside to this and think it could be implemented fairly easily.
- More radically (and less likely to happen), would be to have all post snap offensive penalties result in a loss of down the way intentional grounding is enforced. Holding on 1st and 10 becomes 2nd and 20. I'm sure defenses would love this if it were actually called, but I wonder if officials would be inclined to swallow their whistles if the penalties were enforced this way.
There would be no change to pre-snap penalties, unsportsmanlike conduct, or personal fouls under either scenario.
What do you think? Should the league think along these lines? And if it did, would either proposal do much of anything to stem the tide of offensive dominance?